As you know by now, Pat Narduzzi has been "on the prowl" with a tour taking him to key areas in the country to meet Pitt alums and fans alike. We were lucky enough to receive a report from his first stop in Washington, DC. The string of luck continued for our fine site and Narduzzi's second stop on the tour would be at X-Finity Live in South Philly. This gave me the rare chance to stop by since I live just north of the City of Brotherly Love.
This is something a lot of major college programs do on a yearly basis and it always bothered me that Pitt has never done anything like this. I am a season ticket holder and usually get to two or three games a year and luckily my family splits the rest. I constantly am invited to events by the football program, but rarely can attend due to that little five hour trek across the wonderful and scenic PA Turnpike. You may have detected a touch of sarcasm on there. With the changes in the athletic department and administration at Pitt, this is the latest in a string of decisions that have given a positive vibe to fans.
So, how was the night? Did I do shots with Coach Narduzzi at the bar and end up singing on South Street at 3:00 a.m. with him and Pat Bostick? Well, no, but it was still a good time. It kept very much with the theme of the DC event. It was well done and despite the Schuylkill Expressway's best efforts, I made it to the event around 6:30 p.m. for a 7:00 p.m. start. There was already a decent line formed and I took my place at the end and was checked into the event and given a name tag.
Despite it not being quite 7:00 p.m. yet, they decided to start the picture taking portion and the line moved quickly and past some merchandising and a football helmet signed by Narduzzi to be auctioned off. The moving of the line was a nice surprise, but the NCAA presence was visible with this little sign.
Upon arriving to Narduzzi to take my picture, we struck up a conversation and the guy hasn't left me alone since. Phone numbers were exchanged, inside jokes were had, family backgrounds were discussed, it was really fun. It was either that happened or we made small talk, I thanked him for coming out and said Pitt had never done this before. I can't really remember which one it was, but I like to think it was the first one. Either way, we took the epic picture below. NOW...I know this will shock you, but we really weren't standing at the top of a packed Heinz Field.
After our pose down, I saddled up to the bar and mingled a little with other Pitt fans and alum. I did see Bostick walk by and he said hello. I have heard he is a very nice guy and he definitely lived up to the reputation. He was talking to everyone and was MCing the event. I thanked him quickly for the 13-9 victory over WVU to which he responded, "Don't thank me. Thank Shady and our defense."
I also noticed new defensive coordinator, Josh Conklin, standing close by. It was mentioned during Narduzzi's speech that Conklin is handling that area for recruiting. He was talking one by one with several people and I didn't have the balls to interrupt him. Finally, I could not wait any longer and as he went from one conversation to the other, I stopped him for a picture. He is a nice guy and he clearly understands that Pittsburghers love aggressive and hard-hitting defense. I told him I was very confident with him and Rob Harley on the defense and he responded with a shake of the head and a quick, "you love that guy too, huh? Everyone does."
From there, the evening turned towards Narduzzi's speech, as he was brought up by Bostick, but not before Pat called up all the former players that were there for the event that live in the area. It was a nice turnout and I recognized a few names.
Narduzzi's speech seemed to be a good one, but as many of the people in the back of the room (like myself) will tell you, there was a girl at the bar, who clearly wasn't there for the event. With her distinct lack of self-awareness, it was hard to hear the speech over her wonderful F-bombs and general yelling about her life to the bartender. Finally, I moved away from her and it was pretty clear that others were annoyed as well.
Despite her best intentions, I did pick up that Narduzzi was enthusiastic and made it very clear that he would love to see more people in attendance this coming season. He did this by the telling the story of first meeting the players and one of them (who he did not name) saying, "you know coach, I really play better when there is a packed house." Let's hope fans are listening this year.
From there, it was on to the Q&A portion of the event. Since these will probably each be different at every stop, I'll pinpoint the highlights:
- When asked about whether or not he actually does have images of the new uniforms for 2016 on his cell phone, he did not deny this.
- When asked about his record against Michigan, while at Michigan State, and a fan's wondering if we can expect the same when we play Penn State, Narduzzi wouldn't make any predictions, other than saying, "It's gonna be personal."
- From my poll this past week asking for a reader's question, I edited the winner a little bit who wanted to know how he would build a fence around the WPIAL. I asked him about Pitt's proximity to WVU, OSU, PSU, Michigan and others and how long it takes to build a relationship between recruits and the local high schools for his staff. He responded that it does not take long and cited his connections to the PA/Ohio border along with recruiting the area for Michigan State during his time there. He also mentioned that all schools have other big programs in their area and have to battle it out, so Pitt is no different.